Authors: Stephen B. Pearl
Tags: #9781629290492, #Damnation Books, #military, #science fiction, #Stephen B Pearl, #romance, #erotica, #Genetics, #cyborg, #science fiction, #science, #biotech, #aliens, #war, #spies, #espionage, #slaves, #love, #romance, #duty, #dedication, #life, #death, #battle, #armour, #rifles, #guns, #torture, #salvation, #sacrifice, #biology, #space
“Since the start of the project.”
“Are they really friendly?”
“They seem to be.”
“I can't fucking believe this!” Zane jumped to his feet. He stared at Richard then his sister. “Fucking aliens!”
“Zane, I wish I could have told you.”
“We've been implanting some alien doodad in our test subjects.” The young man went red in the face.
“Zane,” began Ashley.
“Don't you think they had a right to know?”
“Zane! They were all terminal. Maybe their right to live was a little more important than their right to know,” suggested Richard.
“Yeahâ¦sorryâ¦justâ¦aliens! Wow! And the Asian chickâwhat a hottie.” Zane took his seat.
“These beings travel over light years and you describe one of the crew as a hottie,” objected Ashley.
“Well she is. Why do they look so much like us?” Zane's face betrayed suspicions that were beginning to form.
“That's one of the things they haven't told us yet,” replied Richard.
“Secrets! I don't trust secrets,” said Ashley.
Richard lay on the sleeping mat. A piece of paper with March sixth, twenty-thirty-seven was taped to the floor beside him. His mind was focused on one thing. One pure memory. His heart was filled with Ashley. A portable interface was jacked into the old cable line and connected into the port in his skull. His breathing steadied and his mind quested out. He had initiated contact with Ashley before, but more rode on this effort than he ever thought possible. Data streamed around him as he followed flows of information the way a kayaker might ride a rapid. A back trail connected his consciousness to his body. Several major flows converged on a single point. He allowed the current to draw him to the nexus.
* * * *
Ashley lay naked in the magic circle with Richard beside her. The alter candles blazed. The flickering light painted her skin golden. She rose on one elbow and stared down at him. His eyes opened and he smiled at her.
“I love Beltane.” She grinned.
“There are some advantages to the solitary path.”
“All acts of love and joy are my sacrament.” Ashley snuggled into his side.
“No greater power than that of a man and a woman joined in the bonds of love,” agreed Richard.
“I have to admit, this is a lot more fun than doing it symbolically with the athame and chalice.”
Richard smiled at her. “It's why husbands and wives make the best working partners.”
Ashley smiled and scanned his living room. The candles' half-light transformed it into a magic cavern where all things were possible.
“Husband and wife?” she asked.
Ashley ran a finger down the center of his chest. “Don't worry. When we're both ready, if that's how it works out.”
Richard kissed her and playfully tickled her sides.
“Stop oh stop,” pleaded Ashley.
The dream recall shifted, the memory setting taking on new aspects. Richard stopped tickling where she knew during the real event the tickle had changed to a caress and he had begun a second love making session.
“Ashley,” said Richard. His face became care worn and there was more grey in his hair.
“Honeymoon in York, dining at the Golden Ram.” He spoke the facts that only the two of them shared.
“Richard, what is it. The risk. If they sense your connectionâ¦” In the dream Ashley sat up in the circle.
“I'm coming for you, love. We're going to kill the bio-mind.”
“Your program is ready?”
The dream image of Richard took Ashley's hands. “Yes. I need you to determine which parts of the data matrix would be most vulnerable.”
“Goddess. When it dies the power facility willâ”
“We'll be killed.”
“I died when that beast took you from me. I would rather live a minute with you than a life-time without.”
“Richard, you'll have to be here physically to insert the program.”
“I'mâ¦I don't look like you remember.”
“I love you, Ash. Your form is of little consequence.”
“Richard, look.” The dream image of Ashley closed its eyes. The image shifted, scars marred her skin and there were tubes running in and out of her skull. A pulsating grey thing passed through a hole in her side. Her nose had obviously been broken and several of her teeth were missing. Her hair had either been shaved or chemically removed.
“Ashley.” Richard took the apparition's hands.
“Can you stand to see me like this?”
Richard touched her cheek.
“I love you; your body is of little consequence to that. I am coming to be with you, and no power in this universe will stop me!”
A tear trickled down Ashley's cheek and the form before Richard returned to that of the redheaded beauty.
He kissed her.
“Richard, you should go. If they detect youâ¦”
“They will not. Humans built the mechanical system. I'll trust to our mastery of it even now, and to love's power. I've missed you.”
“And I you.”
Richard kissed her and allowed his hands to caress the dream form before him. She kissed him back and reaching down stroked his penis. Mind mingled with mind, using the symbolic allegory of flesh. They caressed each other stroking away the hurts and cares. Richard ran his fingers through her hair, feeling its silky quality. She lay on her back and he kissed her lips then suckled her. She was his Ashley, and, for a moment, they both let the last three years vanish into their love.
He entered her and the dream illusion dissolved. They melded one to the other, caressing, healing, touching. Two minds similar yet different, balancing each other and becoming more than the sum of their parts. Ashley's thoughts glowed a rich, dark blue, shot through with gold and purple. Richard was a deep navy with yellow and brown highlights. They flowed together, a nimbus of light.
A total sharing that made the physical act of love seem clumsy and shallow by comparison. The degradation she had faced melted before an onslaught of total acceptance and support. His memories of harsh decisions, the deaths he counted as his fault, fell away before total understanding. They spiraled together, the minds intertwining. Orgasm was an explosion of gold fire that flashed through them both until they glowed like a newborn sun.
“Go, my love,” whispered Ashley's voice in the joined minds.
Richard reluctantly withdrew; knowing that if he was caught in cyber space there were ways his consciousness could be bound.
* * * *
Ashley opened her eyes and looked at the perversion that had been made of Betty. She turned the other way and saw the greater perversion that was Tannal. He spoke with a large creature with snake-like skin, yellow, slit-pupil eyes and a head like a boar. Tannal sent a surge of power into Ashley's brain that jerked her fully awake.
“Yes master?” asked Ashley.
“Access the information on the company B-3267 and print out their marching orders.”
“Yes master.” Ashley mentally pulled up the files, simultaneously sending the number of
in the company and the route they were taking to the resistance.
“Excellent,” said Tannal. The boar-headed creature marched from the room.
The door opened and two filthy children, of no more than six, entered. One carried a platter of food the other a bucket of gruel. The one with the bucket paused by each of the ram units and ladled three scoops into the grey, pulsing symbiont placed over their stomach.
The child with the tray carried it to Tannal's side and waited.
Finally the child with the bucket filled Ashley's symbiont.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Foolish custom to thank a slave,” snapped Tannal.
“Yes master,” agreed Ashley.
“Oh did you know a girl named Tabitha? She would have been a year behind you in high school?” Tannal lifted a large turkey leg from the tray the boy carried and took a bite. Slaver spilled from the sides of his mouth as he chewed. Bits of gristle fell onto his fat belly.
Ashley knew what was coming. She had smelt this gruel before. “Yes master. I tutored her on computers.”
“You didn't do a very good job of it. She fell below her quota in the data processing division. You can apologize to her as you symbiont feeds you.”
Ashley kept the scowl from her face. She remembered the golden light that she had shared with Richard and played the game of survival.
“I am sorry, Tabitha.” The symbiont on Ashley's belly pulsed.
“Then my husband asked where I learned that. I just told him it's classified. He thought I was joking.” Mary settled on the data chair.
“I told you it could be an interesting perspective,” replied Nurse Malcowits.
“Disturbing. I hate having no control. You feel everything but can do nothing. Youâ¦If Zane liked it, I like it, until it's over. In a way the memory becomes my own. I never wanted to be a man, and I'm getting a front row seat. Kateâ¦It scares me. Suppose I amâ¦wellâ¦Suppose it gets blurry where what Zane likes and what I like come together.”
“Oh come on. You and Jerry have been together for eleven years. I've seen you eye up the guys in the gym. You're hetero as the day is long.”
“It's just so strange. I'm going to suggest that all future monitoring be matched as to gender and sexual orientation.”
The nurse inserted the IV and started the fluid flows that would support Mary during the monitoring. “Jerry would have missed out then.”
“Too true. It's like I have something to prove when I get home. He doesn't know what's come over me.”
“Is he complaining?”
Mary smiled. “He loves it, and we're both losing weight.”
“Everything is set.”
“I'm setting my cognitive date. March, sixth twenty-thirty-seven. Activating feed, commencing monitoring.”
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Zane Hinkly /Index 11:37/ 30/5/2032
* * * *
I know I should tell you in person, but I can't leave. We're fighting to save the belugas and it's just too important. I will always remember our time together as the wonderful interlude it was, but I've met someone else. I'm sorry. He's a good man and treats me well.
I know this will hurt, but now you're free too. You can experience university life in its fullest.
Yours with fondest thoughts.
Zane read the message aloud and watched his tears fall onto the paper.
“Poor, Zane. I'm sorry.” Ashley sat on his bed beside him. Reaching over she took his hand.
“Iâ¦Iâ¦I thought we would be together forever. I love her.”
“Zane, she's still young. Maybe in a year or two.”
Zane looked around him. Betty's face smiled out from her pictures scattered around his single dorm room.
“Ash, she's gone. She won't be coming back to me. Let's face it. I was lucky to have her. The only reason she stuck with me was I was in university and she was in high school. I had prestige.”
“Zane! That is so stupid. It's not only an insult to you; it's an insult to her!” Ashley grabbed him by his shirt and gave him a little shake, forcing him to look at her.
“Listen to me, Zane Hinkly. There are lots of girls who would be lucky to have you.”
Zane allowed a little smile to touch his lips. “Thanks Ash. You're always looking out for me.”
“What's a sister for?”
“Too bad you're my sister.”
“Zane, that's sweet. Thank you.”
“It's true, Stanley is an idiot.” Zane brushed his palm against her cheek.
“Maybe, Iâ¦What a pair of losers we are. The Hinkly charm. My fiancÃ© leaves me for a man; your girlfriend dumps you for a whale. What is it with us?” Ashley frowned and looked at the floor.
“Sis? You're a number one grade-A hottie.”
“I wish other guys thought so. I'm either too smart, too committed to my work, too skinny or too flat chested. I'm just too something all the time.”
“Ash.” With a conscious effort Zane pushed his own pain to the side and reached out cupping his sister's chin in his hand. “Give guys a chance to find out you're on the market again. You dated Stanley since your senior year of high school. Plus you haven't exactly put on a billboard saying you're available.”
“It's just Stan was wellâ¦my only boyfriend. No one was interested in high school. Will anyone else ever be interested?”
“Of course they will. High school guys are idiots. I know, I was one. You're the best.”
Ashley blushed. “Thanks. I'm sorry, right now is supposed to be about you.”
“Hey, what's a brother for? Besides, I'll be okay.” Zane forced a smile.
“It's gonna take a while though. We both know that.” Ashley hugged him. “It's gonna be rough for the next few weeks. You need me; you know where to find me. Don't rush into anything, rebounds almost never work, and they can get everybody hurt.”
“Don't worry, I won't pull a Green.” Tears threatened to spill from his eyes.
Ashley released the hug but kept her hands on his shoulders as she leaned back to stare into his face. “Where did you hear that?”
“Got started when Doc showed up for class hung over a couple of times.”
“Don't say it again.”
“I won't. I hope this doesn't affect him taking me on for my master's next year. Oh, God, that's all I need, having to find another sponsor on top of all this.” Zane buried his head in his hands.
“Hey, she dumped you. If I know Richard, I better get ready to check out your tattoos again.”
“Ash!” Zane blushed.
“Well, it is a cute little ducky.”
“My tattoo's a teddy bear.”
“Like I said, it is a cute little ducky.”
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Zane Hinkly /Index 12:52/ 17/6/2032
* * * *
“Doctor Robinson, I'm sorry I can't let you have access to Doctor Green's computer. There are classified materials on it.” Zane stood in the doorway to Richard's office physically blocking the entry of the older man.
“I'm the dean of this department. I'll look at whatever I damn well please.” Edwin tried to push Zane out of the doorway.
Zane dug his heels in, refusing to move. “Doctor Robinson, Richard will be back in an hour, if you'll just wait until he arrives.”
“Richard! Is that how you show respect to your faculty advisor? You'd best be careful young man. Your Richard's only claim to fame is the government chose him to develop the
cure. He'll soon fall out of favor, and he is very junior in this department.
“Now get out of my way. I wish to check his files. There may be some enzymatic similarities between the cancer cure and the cell division enhancers I'm developing.”
“I'm sure Riâ¦Professor Green would be glad to consult with you, buâ¦”
”I told you to move. Don't make me call campus security and have you expelled.”
Zane straightened. His heart was ragged from Betty. He was also shaken by things Stanley had told him when he'd tried to talk some sense into the man. His world was upside down and he'd had enough. “Doctor Robinson. I've had a hell of a month! I actually have an overwhelming desire to pound the living crap out of someone. You go ahead and call campus security, and, if I'm lucky, they may arrive in time to prevent me being charged with murder. Do whatever the hell you like, but you are not getting in this office while I'm able to stop you! Richard is my friend as well as my teacher, and I won't let you screw him over!”
Edwin's mouth opened and closed in silence. “I'll have you expelled! I'll have you arrested!”
“I'll have you charged with tampering with classified government files.” Richard appeared at the end of the hall and swiftly moved to stand beside Zane.
“I think I have a fair picture of what happened, Zane. Thank you for being so diligent. Please go and check the enzymatic production sequence on the new Parkinsons research. I wish to have a chat with Doctor Robinson.”
Zane blinked then practically raced down the hall. He paused behind the lab's door listening to the voices.
“I want him expelled. He threatened me,” snapped Edwin.
“Edwin, shut the fuck up!” replied Richard.
“You treated me like crap when I was your grad student. Don't think I'll let you abuse my students in the same way. You are going to go back to your office and stay the hell away from Zane. You will disallow yourself from any assessment board or committee that has anything to do with him, and you will bloody well leave him alone!”
“Or I will have you charged with trying to illegally access government documents. My computer has classified information, you know this. The security of that information is part of the funding requirements. I'm not sure how many years the charge carries, but I'm quite certain that it's considerably more than assault.”
Zane heard a sound like someone choking then footsteps. Zane moved to inspect a piece of equipment just before Doctor Robinson stormed down the hall.